LIFE: Be Present

At the beginning of our John sermon series, Pastor Nate encouraged us as a faith family to three challenges: Be Present, Dig In and Pray. In this blog series, we are exploring those challenges.

The Beauty of Being Present

Do you ever feel the pull from the things of life vying for your attention and affection, keeping you from being present with God and with others? Are there times when you feel the burdens that weigh heavy on you turn your gaze away from God and onto your pain? I know I have experienced both.

Every week, we are invited to come experience God’s work, His power and His beauty on display as His people gather together on Sunday mornings. When we gather for church, we have a unique opportunity to seek and savor God together with our spiritual brothers and sisters through worship, time spent in His Word and through relationship with one another. But at times, we struggle to be present enough to experience this. So how do we fight against the distraction that is always waiting for us? How do we grow in our delight of God and make much of our time together on Sunday mornings as a faith family?

Be Aware of the War

1 Peter 5:8 calls us to be alert. We are fighting in a spiritual war. Our enemy does not sit idly by as we seek to follow and obey Jesus and he hates when we gather as God’s people to worship our Savior. In fact, the spiritual forces of darkness are at work to turn our eyes away from God in an attempt to keep us from being present with Him. If we want to fight against the schemes of the enemy and our own sinful flesh, we need to be aware of the ways we might come under attack.

The enemy might stir up an argument with your spouse on your way to church. Maybe you find your heart distracted with an email from work, a news update on your phone or an inconvenience on your way into the service. Our enemy is cunning, and he whispers lies, stirs up anger, feeds our selfishness or amplifies our fears. We must be watchful and aware of the spiritual battle going on within us and around us to keep our hearts from drawing near to God… and we must fight against it. Our greatest weapon? Prayer. As you prepare for bed on Saturday evening or begin your morning on Sunday, spend some time praying that God would help you fight in this spiritual battle against the distractions and temptations you experience, and that He might prepare your heart to be present with Him.

Trust the God Who Sees You

Maybe you walk through the doors on Sunday feeling the weight of suffering in your own life or in the lives of those you love. I’ve experienced this personally over the last few months with the loss of my aunt to cancer. I’ve felt the pain of those I love who are suffering through loss of loved ones, miscarriages, broken marriages, financial difficulties and loneliness. The burdens of life can rest heavy upon us, and the haze of pain and sadness can make it difficult to see the face of our Savior, to remember His character and cling to His promises.

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He calls us to come to Him, to entrust our burdens into His capable and loving hands. He promises to help us in our time of need and be near to us in our suffering. We may not be able to change our circumstances. They will likely still be there when we leave the building after church. But we do not have to bear our burdens alone. Jesus promises rest for the weary soul and peace for those who seek His face. Psalm 34:18 reminds us that He “is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

When we come to worship on Sunday mornings and the heaviness of life clings to us, may we ask for God’s help to entrust our burdens to Him. Let’s pray for eyes to see His heart, and faith to worship Him in the midst of our suffering. He sees us, He knows us and He loves us. What a comfort that is!

Be Encouraged by God’s Family

It’s easy to be short sited. We come to church on Sunday mornings ready to receive what the Lord has for us. And oh, how wonderful when we encounter God personally in our worship of Him and through the preaching of His Word! But what if there’s something more, something richer than just what we can receive personally from God?

The church is God’s family, consisting of men and women from all backgrounds, ethnicities and seasons of life. Every week, we gather to worship the true God. The One who has ransomed us to Himself and gives us shared purpose. He has united us to Himself and to each other, and now we have everything that matters in common through Jesus Christ, the Son. When we gather, we don’t just come to experience God personally. We come to also experience God corporately.

When I am hurting, the voices of my brothers and sisters around me sing truth about who our God is, reminding my heart that He is set apart, trustworthy and good. When I catch glimpses of those I know who have experienced great suffering lift their hands in worship, I am spurred on to greater faith as I see their faith in action. When life is hard and I have forgotten what I know is true, others remind me again of the truth we learned from God’s Word together on a Sunday morning. We cannot go on without the nourishment that comes from being in the presence of our brothers and sisters. But this takes work, and it requires being engaged with others. Community doesn’t just happen; we must seek it out, build relationships and trust. But when we do, God allows us to experience the beauty of His work in the people we share our lives with, the people we love.

When I am aware and looking for God at work around me, He fills my heart with gratitude and joy. When I ask for eyes to see what He is doing in my brothers and sisters, He graciously answers in ways that encourage me and increase my faith. I’m not meant to walk through this life alone. I’m not meant to walk with God alone. None of us are! When we are present and look around us, at the work of God within our spiritual family, we will so often be led to a place of greater humility, thankfulness and worship.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

All these things are meant to help us turn our gaze to our greatest treasure, Jesus Christ. The book of John says that “In Him [is] LIFE and that life is the light of men.” Our greatest hope is found in Jesus Christ. The Light that breaks through darkness, provides salvation, brings healing and gives us rest, is Jesus Himself. And He welcomes us to come and be with Him.

As we give Him our attention and set aside distraction in our worship and the study of His Word, we are able to catch glimpses of who He is and how great His love is for us. As we look for His work amongst us and see Him answer prayers, we grow in our certainty of His promises to us and His presence with us. As we know and experience our God more deeply, our worship and delight of Him continue to grow.

Every Sunday morning, we can join our brothers and sisters in this pursuit. Being present with God and His people takes intentionality. You will have to fight for it, and it can be hard. But the beauty available to us… the joy that comes from being near to Him? It is worth it!

So, let’s pray for eyes to see God more clearly. Let’s ask God to grow our love and desire for Him. Let’s seek His help to be present with Him as we gather together on Sunday mornings and every day of our week. These are prayers He delights to answer!